J Mills fined £145,000 over worker’s death

A Trafford-based building firm has been punished after an employee plunged 10 metres through a fragile roof onto a concrete floor, and died two years later from his injuries.

J Mills Contractors was prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive for failing to put any safety measures in place to stop Alan Kerwin, 32, falling while he was replacing a skylight on a warehouse in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Manchester Crown Court heard that the father-of-one from Lower Broughton, Salford, sustained several serious injuries in the fall on 31 March 2007, including a fractured skull.

Kerwin developed post-traumatic epilepsy as a result of his injuries, and was never able to return to work. He died from an epileptic seizure in April 2009.

The court heard that Kerwin's line manager had received advice from HSE just one week before the incident which could have saved his life. An HSE inspector explained to him how to safely manage work on fragile roofs, but this advice was not acted upon.

The incident occurred at Kayley Industrial Estate on Richmond Street in Ashton-under-Lyne, where Kerwin was working a Saturday shift. He was on the roof with two of his colleagues when he placed his weight on the delicate cement surrounding the glass.

The cement shattered, and Kerwin fell through the gap. The HSE investigation found J Mills had not carried out a risk assessment or put any safety measures in place to protect him.

J Mills, based on Higher Road in Urmston, admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting workers at risk. The company was ordered to pay £7,700 in prosecution costs in addition to the fine on 31 October 2011.

David Norton, the investigating inspector at HSE, said: "This is a tragic case in which someone has lost their father as a result of an entirely avoidable incident.

"Falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of serious injury. But Mr Kerwin was allowed to walk across a roof without anything in place to stop him falling.

"Just one week before, Mr Kerwin's line manager was advised by a colleague of mine about the dangers of working at height, and how to protect employees. If he had acted on this advice then I'm confident Mr Kerwin would still be alive today."

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